New York City, July 17, 2013

★ The palest of the linen-cotton shirts was looking more battered and wrinkled than usual. How many times had it been grabbed and worn and washed again? The hot-weather finery of earlier in the week was gone, people’s options exhausted. It was no longer a special occasion to dress for — maybe still for the aggressively dapper man, bearded, pedaling down Prince Street in striped sport coat and terra-cotta shorts, but the heat was not his sartorial muse. Or maybe it was for the woman posing for a photographer’s big-lensed camera, later, also on Prince, stretching her arms up till the hem of her trapeze dress was at her hip joint. Middle-aged men at the crosswalk stopped to contribute their own gazes to the camera’s. By the taxi-clogged gas station, the heat was squeezing the ears. At the 59th Street station, prudent passengers hung back as a 1 train stood there, overstuffed, the conductor trying to close the doors. An express passed behind it, a piston in a chamber, sending coils of furnace-hot air to batter the holdouts on the platform.